Search it, Search it, till you make it

I wasn’t using (smartly) the Outlook search for finding emails, so this was a life changing knowledge for me. OK, maybe I’m exaggerating, but really, this is one of the best “reveals” I had with Outlook which boosted up my work. I would cover the Search topic in a few posts.

Office Worker with Mountain of Paperwork

This week I have arranged a meeting with friends that I didn’t see or talk with for over 2 decades (wow, now I have realized how old I am…). It was a team I have worked with 3 companies ago, for 5 intensive years. It was awesome – I have missed them so much. The key for making this happen was the ability to track them without having any old records about them. Using the social networks today, it was an easy task (something that wasn’t achievable 2 decades ago).

My point is that this is also doable with Outlook when it comes to searching emails. You don’t need sophisticated categorized system in order to search an email. Outlook search engine is a powerful tool, which I realized too few people know how to use. I see too many people struggling with finding emails and spending minutes over minutes for finding them.

Let’s make an end to it.

How to Search

I would list here the top 5 search keys that should help us all search any email within seconds:

  • from:<person>: the name of the sender. It can be first name, last name, or email handle (e.g. erezm in case of
  • to:<person>: same as from, but for a person that appears on the To list.
  • word: search for a word within the email (anywhere in the email – subject, distribution list, body).
  • “a phrase”: search for exact phrase anywhere in the email.
  • subject:<word>: search for a word in the email title.


Let’s take a few examples to make it clear:

  • from:erez, to:danny, subject:budget
    This would find all the emails that Erez has sent to Danny and also contain the word “budget” in the subject of the email.
  • project, roberto, vladimir, steve, linux
    This searches an email that contains all the above words. Use that for intuitive search – just write down words you remember appearing somewhere in the email. In this search, I have remembered that Roberto, Steve and Vladimir where mentioned. I have also remembered that it was related to project and that it was a discussion about Linux operating system. Those words are being searched everywhere in the email.
  • from:erez, to:ronny, “well done”
    This would find all the emails that Erez has sent to Ronny where the phrase “well done” was mentioned.

What next…

I hope those examples made it clear. The next time you want to search for an email, use the search engine and practice it. It should be intuitive in the sense that you need to list down all the information that pops up into your head regarding this email. Any piece of information you remember, list it and it would narrow down the search results.

The next posts on the topic would include configuration options for easy search and follow up post with a “surprising” recommendation. Stay tuned…


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Erez Morabia

I’m an engineer and a leader in the computer software industry which is passionate about leading teams, embracing new technologies and improving soft skills for work efficiency.

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